Francis Thompson (1859–1907) was an English poet, who after, failing in his studies in Manchester, moved to London to become a writer, but could only find menial work and became addicted to opium, and was a street vagrant for years. An editor read his poetry and, in 1888, rescued him, publishing his book ‘Poems’ in 1893. Thompson lived mostly in monasteries in Wales and at Storrington, but wrote three books of poetry, with other works and essays.
One-Hundred-and-Thirty-Years is beyond the experience of any human lifetime. The East End murders of 1888, as well as being a criminal case, is history. An anonymous letter was sent, believed by the police to be authentic, which was signed 'Jack the Ripper'. This name is more used by historians who write about these senseless murders.
It is not surprising that facts sometimes blend with opinion. One idea often spoken about is that the Jack the Ripper murders, by shining a spotlight on the lives on the people who lived in the slums that they occurred, brought about social reform. This included improvement in housing, sanitation, and education. This idea, that despite a few deaths the lives of the populace as a whole was improved has become ingrained. It is even taught to students of High School History Curriculum.
Bizarrely, the Ripper edges ever closer to being added to the list of the ‘Saints of Whitechapel.’ - Those many good men and women who spent their lives working hard to improve conditions in London’s slums. The ‘Social Reformer’ myth arises from our need to find sense in chaos. The truth is that the Ripper took life and the potential for new life. We will never know the possibility that one of the victim's may have brought about positive social change. Nor can we ever know if the never born generations of these victims, these mothers, sisters, daughters, might have too brought about improvements to society.
Instead of trying to find good in the bad by using the worn-out social reform rhetoric, there is a very simple counter-example for Jack the Ripper and his murders. There is the English poet, Francis Thompson. It was from Spitalfields, where the Ripper murders were centered, that, in 1888, a charitable editor rescued Thompson from a life of poverty.
Even though, unlike the Ripper, Thompson is hardly mentioned now, after his death in 1907, his fame as a poet grew, until by the 1940s, he was a commonly read and in most poetry anthologies. However, now he has drifted into obscurity while the immortal Ripper has become the industrial tourist complex that it is today.
How easy it is to contrast Thompson with the Ripper. Unlike the Ripper, who is universally feared and loathed for his horrendous murders and mutilation, Thompson, when he is rarely remembered, is spoken of in glowing terms. Thompson was born in Preston, in 1859. Despite coming from a respectable but rather dull family, he grew into a gifted wordsmith. Newspapers praised his works. The ‘Speaker’ wrote,
‘Mr Thompson’s poetry, at its very highest, attains a sublimity unsurpassed by any Victorian poet.’
If there were no better poet than Thompson, it would be hard to find a worse murderer than the Ripper. Papers such as the, ‘East London Advertiser’ were limitless in their condemnation, ‘what can be more appalling than the thought that there is a being in human shape stealthily moving about a great city, burning with the first for human blood and endowed with such diabolic astuteness, as to enable him to gratify his fiendish lust with absolute impunity.’
Thompson, after reaching London, from Manchester, in 1885, with the aim of becoming a writer, drifted into destitution. Yet, somehow he survived homelessness and the dangers of the very crime-ridden streets, in which the Ripper roamed, to become a noted poet. While the papers described Thompson as a, ‘genius of rare inspiration,’ The Ripper seemed to be gifted only with diabolical luck and the ability to strike terror. The papers described the murderer with these words, ‘Hideous malice, deadly cunning, insatiable thirst for blood.’ This is how the same papers considered Thompson, ‘of all poets to be the most celestial in vision… He is an Argonaut of literature.’ They judged the Ripper as a, ‘a murderous maniac,’ a ‘ghoul-like creature who stalks through the streets of London, stalking down his victim.’ Of Thompson, his editor’s wife wrote, ‘He was one of the most innocent of men.’
Unlike the Ripper who gutted women, apart from his brilliant poetry, Thompson, seems to have done nothing notable. After his rescue from homelessness Thompson spent his years, until he died, aged only 47, mostly in country monasteries. These religious sanctuaries were an ideal place for Thompson to write about God and reflect on the bible. His poem, ‘Little Jesus,’ is a pretty poem that shows his wish to understand the spiritual life and the divine:
‘Little Jesus, was thou shy
Once, and just so small as I?
And what did it feel like to be
Out of Heaven, and just like me?
Did Thou sometimes think of there,
And ask where all the angels were?
I should think that I would cry
For my house all made of sky;’
The Ripper, if the infamous letters did come from him, had God furthest from his mind when he wrote, ‘I am down on whores and I shant quit ripping them,’ and in the gruesome ‘From Hell’ letter in which he boasted, ‘I send you half a kidney. I took from one woman, preserved it for you, the other piece I fried it and ate; it was very nice.’ Distinctly different from the mutilating, cannibalistic Ripper, Thompson enjoyed quaint pursuits. Like the time he took his editor’s small children ice-skating in Kensington Gardens. Here is part of a letter he wrote to their father,
‘If the children had half so delightful an afternoon as I had with them, I shall not doubt whether they enjoyed themselves. Cuckoo, considering how new he is to the ice, got on very well; far better than I expected from his delicate frame. He was quite brave about his tumbles – and to be sure, Monica did her best to familiarise him with them. … Let me thank you warmly for your kindness in trusting the children to me. Or shall I say trusting me to them? .. I desired nothing better than to play with them. Indeed, they could not have been better or kinder.’
When we think of the Ripper and how he is remembered for his carnage and savagery, we should be grateful that from the very streets that he roamed came Francis Thompson. His poetry was so inspiring that within a year after his early death, which was came from complications of the lung, the paper ‘The Stylus’ wrote.
‘There died quietly in a London hospital a man of the rarest genius … To have felt and loved Francis Thompson’s poetry is one of those spiritual gains in our life which, come what may, can never be lost entirely. He was rather a soul, a breath, than a man. It is the mind of a woman in the character of a child, so that we feel for him less admiration than tenderness and gratitude. Francis Thompson has done the world an inestimable good, if the world will but recognize it, for he has succeeded in cloaking all things with the divine presence, and so vividly that we can almost see God in our midst. Truly a miracle was performed by this poet inspired of the Holy Ghost, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.”’
It seems that Thompson’s time on Earth was an answer to everyone’s prayers, but when prayers were directed to the Ripper, it was for a far different reason. Consider the thoughts of Inspector Walter Dew who explained,
'I was on the spot, actively engaged throughout the whole series of crimes. I ought to know something about it. Yet I have to confess I am as mystified now as I was then by the man's amazing elusiveness. England had never known anything like it before; I pray she never will again.'
When it comes to the lasting influence of the Ripper and Thompson, the differences are as plain as black and white. Many serial killers have professed an admiration for the Ripper and copycat killers abound. Examples would include Peter Sutcliffe, who is better known as the, Yorkshire Ripper. Sutcliffe, like the Ripper targeted mostly prostitutes and, in 1981, he was convicted of murdering 13 women.
Thompson’s influence is so different to the Ripper that it is almost unbelievable they shared the same home ground in the East End, let alone the same universe. Thompson is often named the ‘poets poet,’ because his works served as an inspiration for such greats literary figures as Oscar Wild, C.S Lewis, G.K Chesterton, Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, W.B. Yeats, Eugene O'Neill, and Robert Frost.
More notably, the author, J. R. R. Tolkien, used phrases and words coined by Thompson for his Middle Earth Books. He lectured on Thompson's work describing how influential he was to his writing. The Indian civil rights activist, Mahatma Gandhi, kept a copy of Thompson's poetry beside his bed while under house arrest, for protesting British rule. Gandhi praised Thompson's poetry. He even went as far as recommending it as a remedy for anxiety. The American civil rights activist, Martin Luther King Jnr, quoted Francis Thompson's poetry in his sermons. The United States Supreme Court quoted Thompson's poetry in its historic 1955 Brown v. Board of Education, judgment on desegregation.
Thompson's poetry has been published in 70 languages. These are just some of the reasons why Thompson is often described as the greatest mystical poet of modern times.
All this must make you think why would Thompson be included in this book, which is a rogue’s gallery of cutthroats, madmen, and conmen. Jack the Ripper and Francis Thompson and Francis Thompson and Jack the Ripper have hardly anything in common. It looks like what we have here is another of those fanciful theories because, as everybody thinks, the Ripper was probably an unknown random guy that nobody has ever heard of. Naming Thompson as a suspect looks like a desperate attempt to cherry pick. It appears to be another a rehash of a stale idea. Finding somebody, we have heard of and frame him for the crimes. It is usually the opposite of real research. This article could be yet an attempt to slander a good name to cash in on the Ripper craze. Any reasonable person, with good taste, would wipe Thompson’s name off from the suspect list.
However, let us take a closer look at Francis Thompson. Where the Ripper actually lived is conjecture though many accept that if he was not a local man, he must have lived close by. This is because he seemed to know the streets very well and had many opportunities to kill repeatedly. The local killer idea fits in well with what we know of modern profiling on serial killers. Thompson lived at ‘The Row.’ This was the common name for a homeless person’s night refuge on 50 Crispin Street, Spitalfields.
The Sisters of Mercy, an order of nuns, ran this shelter, properly named, Providence Row night refuge. The Row was unique because it had a policy of not locking residents in at night. The Row allowed residents to leave at all hours. This was because the nuns encouraged its guests to find work and many of the jobs they sought were ones that required unusual work hours. These trades included lamplighters, matchbox sellers, market porters, and other trades that required late night and early morning work. If the Ripper slept at a refuge, The Row would have perfectly suited his nightly excursions. The Row was, and still is, situated opposite the entrance to Dorset Street, which held Miller’s Court where Mary Kelly was killed. Tracing Thompson’s movements it is most likely that he was admitted to The Row on November the 5th 1888, and left on November 15th. This means that poor Thompson was living less than 100 yards from Mary Kelly when she was killed on November 9th.
Such bloodshed so near to a sensitive poet must have been shocking. It may be the reason why the editor, who rescued him on the 15th and sent him to a private hospital to recover from exhaustion, never mentioned The Ripper when he spoke of Thompson. It may be the reason why his editor, after Thompson’s death, in 1907 removed all the references that Thompson made in his many essays, about staying at The Row. It must have been difficult for this editor to not tell everyone he met that the brilliant poet that he discovered stayed at the same refuge that Mary Kelly was also supposed to have once stayed. Especially when the editor was particularly interested in the Jack the Ripper murders. Not only did he follow all the press reports, but spoke to his closet friends about the latest reports and shared his theories on suspects and motives.
Another person, involved in writing and publishing, who did not have the same hesitation about speaking of a poet in the East End was was the English writer Robert Thurston Hopkins who told,
‘One of Mary Kelly’s friends was a poor devil-driven poet who often haunted the taverns around the East End. I will call him “Mr. Moring”, but of course that was not his real name. Moring would often walk about all night and I had many long talks with him as together we paced the gloomy courts and alleys’
Nobody has yet to have found out whom this Mr. Moring was, but Hopkins did describe him. ‘He had black, lank hair and a moustache, and the long, dark face of the typical bard’ He may have as well been describing the poet, Thompson, since that is how he looked. Hopkins also wrote of his friend and how he, ’knew every opium den in the East End – although at that time they were not counted in with the sights of London’ Thompson had by 1888 formed a decade long opium habit. He usually took it in the form of laudanum in which the opium was mixed with wine, but if necessary would smoke it from his long clay pipe which was his constant companion. Hopkins, who was friends also with Thompson’s editor, did not go straight to the police with his suspicions, when he learned of the death of Mary Kelly. Hopkins reason why not was simple. ‘I could not connect a man of such extraordinary gentleness committing such a dreadful series of outrages.’
Spitalfields must be a small world because not only did it fit within its boundaries the Ripper who encountered Mary Kelly, but also Mary, the prostitute, it seems, was a friend to a poet. Spitalfields grows smaller still, because another fact is that our gentle, Francis Thompson, the poet, was also friends with a prostitute.
In the spring of 1887 Thompson, befriended a prostitute, when he was on the London streets. To this day, despite the fact that both lived together from June of 1887 until June of 1888, her very name has been kept a secret. Peculiarly, the son of his editor dubbed her a ‘Sister of Charity’ after the nuns who ran The Row. This was because she allowed Thompson to share her lodgings and not only was she his lover, but she encouraged him to write to the editor who would rescue him from poverty a few days after the last Ripper murder.
In June 1888, Thompson discovered that the editor had published some pieces of his poetry. He told his prostitute of his change in fortune and she promptly left him. So shocked was he that she had fled that he refused to leave. the streets. He was determined to track her down. This was why during the Jack the Ripper murders Thompson was living in the East End. By July, while seeking her, he was staying in the Limehouse. This district is adjacent to Whitechapel. He spent his first nights searching for the along Mile End Road, not far from where Mary Ann Nichols, whom many believe to be the Ripper’s first murder victim, was killed. Thompson was no longer in contact with his editor. Though by the end of August, thanks to his editors, benefice, Thompson was now wearing fresh clothes, had bathed, and had coins in his pocket. It would not be until Mid-November when Thompson turned up on editor’s doorstop, exhausted from his night’s escapes, that he remade contact with him.
Thompson was incredibly lucky, since he was on the very streets and during the very nights that the Ripper was, that he did not meet the knife-wielding madman. If he had would have had little means to protect himself, apart from the knife that he had. Thompson was carrying a long-bladed, general-use dissecting scalpel at the time of the murders. In his many run-ins with the police, who he said were ‘against him,’ his excuse for possessing it and why it needed to be razor sharp was that he ‘needed it to shave.’ Being homeless, Thompson had it with him all the time. He carried it within one of the pockets of the long brown coat he wore.
We might wander what might have been on Thompson’s mind while he was seeking the prostitute who betrayed and abandoned him. As it is, we only have his writings at the time to draw upon. This is how Thompson described these night workers.
‘These girls whose Practice is a putrid ulceration of love, venting foul and purulent discharge – for their very utterance is a hideous blasphemy against the sacrosanctity [sacred ways] of lover’s language!’
However, Thompson was a poet. Perhaps we can glean some information on what he thought of streetwalkers, such as the one who left him from his poems. A great example if his ‘The Nightmare of the Witch Babies.’ Never published, but found in the notebook he carried. A reading of it would make you think that it was inspired by the very crimes of the Ripper, because it so reminiscent of their brutalities, but a note written beside it by Thompson, ‘Finished before October 1886,’ shows that it was written before the murders began. The poem begins with the protagonist, a ‘lusty knight’ on a hunt, but he hunts in London, after dark, and his game is women.
‘A lusty knight,
On a swart [black] steed,
Rode upon the land
Where the silence feels alone,
Rode upon the Land
Rode upon the Strand
Of the Dead Men’s Groan,
Where the Evil goes to and fro
Two witch babies, Ho! Ho! Ho!
A rotten mist,
Like a dead man’s flesh,
Was abhorrent in the air,’
As he rides through a desolate landscape of the metropolis, the knight catches sight of a suitable prey.
‘What is it sees he?
There in the frightfulness?
There he saw a maiden
Sad were her dusk eyes,
Long was her hair;
Sad were her dreaming eyes,
Misty her hair,
And strange was her garments’
Soon he begins to stalk her.
‘Swiftly he followed her.
Eagerly he followed her.
Then she disappoints him. He discovers she is unclean.
‘Lo, she corrupted!
The knight captures her and decides to kill her. He slices her open and drags out the contents of her stomach. He guts her like an animal in order to find and kill any unborn offspring she may have. The poem ends with a macabre twist and his rapture at finding, not just a single fetus, but twins.
‘And its paunch was rent
Like a brasten [bursting] drum;
And the blubbered fat
From its belly doth come
It was a stream ran bloodily under the wall.
O Stream, you cannot run too red!
Under the wall.
With a sickening ooze –
Hell made it so!
ho! ho! ho!’
The entire poem contains phrases like ‘the bloody-rusted stone’, ‘blood, blood, blood’, ‘No one life there, Ha! Ha!’ and ‘Red bubbles oozed and stood, wet like blood’. It has a plot, which reads like the description of a slaughterhouse. The Ripper would have loved it, although none of his victims were proved to be pregnant, though there are rumours that Mary Kelly was and showed signs of morning sickness before she was killed and had her uterus removed and taken away.
Not only was Kelly’s uterus removed, but also her heart. Doctor Robert Bond, a surgeon who was asked to perform her autopsy, recorded the mutilations,
‘The pericardium was open below and the heart absent.’
The pericardium is a layer of tissue that holds the heart in place. To get to the heart this membrane had first to be sliced open. The removal of organs was a feature of the Ripper killings. The agility that the killer showed in doing so, while working in almost total darkness and under strict time constraints, led other surgeons to suggest that the Ripper had good anatomical knowledge, such as a medical student or doctor might possess. Dr Bond, on the other hand, concluded that the Killer was not a doctor, mainly because the removal of the various organs, which the Ripper performed, was not a skill, in Dr Bond’s experience, that doctors were trained to do. Today pathologists routinely remove the organs from cadavers, but when Dr Bond studied at London’s King’s College Hospital, between 1860 and 1865, this was unheard of. The Ripper, however, routinely removed organs and Francis Thompson did too.
When people talk about Jack the Ripper and the mysteries surrounding him, top of the list of topics are the arguments on whether he was medically trained. With the Ripper we could speculate endlessly but not with Thompson. Before he was homeless in London and before he became a poet, Thompson was a medical student.
Theorists who favor suspects who have had little or no medical training like to write that there existed anatomical books that anyone could read that would have given the murderer enough knowledge to have carried out the murders. Some suspects are strengthened by their possessing some degree of anatomical training. I do not think you will find anyone better trained to perform as the Ripper did, than Francis Thompson.
Thompson’s medical school was not your normal school and Thompson was not your normal medical student. What made Thompson’s school so special was how well they trained their students in surgery and anatomy and what made Thompson special was how much he studied and how his studies reflected the nature of the injuries done to the victims.
Francis Thompson, from 1878 until 1883, was a student at Manchester’s Medical College. When it came to hands on anatomical studies, and innovative training of surgical techniques, it was a first class school. The book, ‘The Study of Anatomy in Britain, 1700-1900,’ had this to say about where Thompson learnt his skills with a knife.
‘If there is one point which stands out most prominently in the many conspicuous recommendations of the Manchester Medical School. It is the wealth of material - anatomical, pathological and clinical, - at the disposal of the teachers, and this has been a characteristic feature during the whole of its career. One of the greatest difficulties of medical schools is to obtain a sufficient supply of subject for dissection, but this has never been felt at Manchester There is accommodation in the dissecting room for 250 students.’
To study there it was compulsory that students possessed great physical strength to cope with the arduous workload and subdue patients, fearful of having operations done to them at a time when there were not anesthetics.
Thompson’s medical skill was the inspiration for the 1988 article that came out in, the, ‘Criminologist’ The article was called, ‘Was Francis Thompson Jack the Ripper, and it was written by Joseph C. Rupp, M.D., Ph.D,. This Texan pathologist reiterated claim in the forward to my 2016 book, ‘Jack the Ripper, The Works of Francis Thompson.’ In the forward to my book he wrote,
‘As a forensic pathologist for over fifty years I have personally with my own two hands performed approximately one autopsy a day, that is a total of about 9,000 autopsies performed during my working life. Performing an autopsy is a skilled task. If someone came to me and offered a king’s ransom to perform a partial autopsy (evisceration) in the dark, on the ground, bare handed with only a surgical knife and no assistance plus a time constraint of a few minutes, my answer would be, “Certainly not, are you crazy?” And yet such a feat was accomplished not once but at least four times. It is almost impossible to even contemplate such a feat of daring and dexterity.
How could such a thing be possible in the near darkness with slippery blood all over the scene from the slashed arteries in the neck, the body fully clothed and all of the London police force out searching for you. Yet, Jack did lt. Now take look at Francis Thompson, our suspect, with six years in medical school, three times through the medical curriculum which meant that he may have taken the anatomy course three times’
Daily attendance, for Thompson, at his medical school, was also compulsory. The school’s record of daily attendance testifies that Thompson was a keen student. Biographer Bridget Boardman, in her 1988 ‘Francis Thompson, Between Heaven & Charing Cross,’ wrote about Thompson’s studies, at the college and the Manchester Hospital Medical Infirmary, the 19th century equivalent of our modern hospital’s Emergency Department.
‘Anatomy had always occupied a central place in training and the dissecting of cadavers was accompanied by far more practical experience in assisting at operations ... his time was almost equally divided between the college and the hospital … students were deliberately discouraged from using the library in preference to the dissecting room.’
Francis Thompson was taught, the then almost unheard of technique of organ removal in dissections by his instructor, Dr Julius Dreschfeld. This Professor of Pathology, was Thompson’s lecture and he was also the Director of the infirmary where Thompson gained practical work experience. The procedure, the professor taught, of how to cut into cadavers and remove organs, is called the Virchow Method. Dreschfeld was taught it directly by the German Pathologist Rudolf Virchow. The pioneering work of this Pathologist is now seen everyday in dissecting rooms but, when the Ripper was taking away kidneys and uteruses, the practice taught to do this had not yet extended beyond the walls of Thompson’s college. A read of the school’s 145-page textbook on the Virchow method, named. ‘Post-Mortem Examination with especial reference to medical-legal practice, is interesting. Here is Virchow describing, in more detail Dr. Bond’s observation of the removal of Mary Kelly’s heart.
‘To bring the heart into the right position for the dissection, when the incisions for the right side are to be made, I extend firmly the forefinger of the left hand, and push it under the heart, and keep it against the base, so that the ventricular portion hangs down over the forefinger, which is as a fulcrum to it.’
In the same book, Virchow pointed out that a clever student, like Thompson was, should improvise,
‘It is scarcely necessary to point out that there are many cases in which deviations from this method are not merely allowable, but also absolutely necessary. The individuality of the case must often determine the plan of the examination … A good pathological anatomist is perfectly able to dissect all the viscera of one subject, or even of two, with one knife.’
Virchow’s words must have been reassuring to Thompson, when he was living in Spitalfields with his dissecting knife in his coat pocket. It must have given him hope that even in Spitalfields, he good get to work if his knife was nice and sharp. Despite what the Ripper did – remove victim Eddowes’ kidney, Kelly’s heart etc.…– we can not say for sure what he thought about the worth of such a practice, but we can for Thompson, who wrote, in one of his poems, lines such as,
‘The life-gashed heart, the assassin’s healing poniard [knife] draw.
The remedy of steel has gone home to her sick heart.
Her breast, dishabited,
Revealed her heart above,
A little blot of red.’
Thompson not only thought that cutting women open and removing their hearts was a ‘good’ thing to do for its ‘healing’ properties, he thought it to be an almost sacred duty and compared it to the rites of mummification as practiced by the ancient Egyptians. This is how he related it,
‘The purifying power of suffering was known even to the heathen. In the Egyptian obsequies, [funeral rites.] the removal of the most perishable parts of the body, the preservation of the rest by steeping and burning nitre, signified the cleansing of the human being by pain; and the symbolism was emphasised by the words spoken over the embalmed corpse, “Thou art pure, Osiris, thou art pure”.’
Despite his many years of practical studies, Thompson failed to become a doctor. This was because of he refused to attend the final one-day examination. It seemed that actually becoming a doctor and swearing the Hippocratic oath, in which a promise is made to do no harm, did not appeal to him. This did not lesson his love of dissection. So strong was his liking for it that he spent much more money on gaining fresh corpses than his studies required. His sister, Mary Thompson, remarked upon it,
‘‘He could get into a temper when roused. … Many a time he asked my father for £3 or £4 for dissecting fees; so often that my father remarked what a number of corpses he was cutting up.’
To qualify in medicine, a trainee doctor had to dissect two bodies in a two-year teaching-cycle, but with £4 pounds, Thompson was able to purchase 5 bodies. This was something he did ‘many a time’ during a 2-year teaching cycle. Considering he repeated the teaching cycle three times, we can only speculate on how many more bodies than his colleagues that the enterprising Thompson was cutting into.
With his possessing a dissecting knife and a remarkable amount of anatomical skill, if Thompson were to decide to kill prostitutes in the London streets he roamed and had grown to know intimately during his three years of homelessness in London, he could be seen as the perfect killing machine. The only thing that would render him harmless would be his state of mind.
His editor’s daughter said, ‘We rather despised him.’ His landlady referred to him as the ‘mental case’. His classmates called him ‘abnormal’ and described him, ‘a vacant stare, weak lips, and a usually half-open mouth, the saliva trickling over his chin.’ Research into Thompson’s childhood and events, before 1888; show a history of intentional fire starting. (Twice he set a church on fire.) When he was a child, a ‘murderous impulse’ compelled him to behead one doll that he said was ‘on the terms of intimate affection.’
Biographers on Thompson and psychologists agree that Thompson was mentally unstable. Paul Van K, in his 1973, ‘Francis Thompson a Critical Biography’, wrote that Thompson's behaviour and writing, ‘gives evidence of a schizophrenic tendency in him.’ This opinion was backed up by respected psychiatrist Thomas Verner Moore, who wrote in the ‘Psychoanalytic Review,’ about Thompson,
‘He manifested that shut-in reaction type which might readily have developed into a full-grown dementia praecox.’ [childhood psychosis]. Moore explained in his article that the ‘shut-in’ personality ‘tends to become psychopathic.’
Doctor William B. Ober, the internationally recognized Director of Pathology in New York, wrote in the journal, ‘New York Academy of Medicine,’
‘The life of Francis Thompson (1859-1907) was that of an overt psychopath and known addict. [his writing and behaviour was] … an expression of the most masochistic attitude ever adopted by any poet who has written in English, even beyond the customary limits of self-flagellation or martyrdom.’
After Thompson’s editor got him out of Spitalfields and shipped him to the Storrington monastery, the poet got to writing. In the autumn of 1889, on the 1st anniversary to the Ripper murders, Thompson completed, his only ever story, 'The End Crowns the Work,' about a poet who kills a women with a knife, to achieve fame. So much about Jack the Ripper is a mystery, but if we were to imagine the murderer had written a confession of his horrible deeds, a year after his deeds it might have sounded very much like what Francis Thompson wrote in his story. Here is part of it. Interestingly, this part describes the murderer fears that the police, like those investigating the East Murders who tested their use, would use bloodhounds to track him down.
‘If confession indeed give ease, I, who am deprived of all other confession, may yet find some appeasement in confessing to this paper. With the scourge of inexorable recollection, I will tear open my scars. With the cuts of a pitiless analysis, I make the post-mortem examination of my crime. It was close on midnight and I felt her only. I reared my arm; some violence seized my hand and drove the poniard down. Whereat she cried; and I, frenzied, dreading detection, dreading above all her awakening, - I struck again and again she cried; and yet again and yet gain she cried. Now, relief unspeakable! That vindictive sleuthhound of my sin has at last lagged from the trail; I have had a year of respite, of release from all torments. What crime can be interred so cunningly, but it will toss in its grave, and tumble the sleeked earth above it? I do not repent, it is a thing for inconsequent weaklings.’
Because the Ripper murders are officially unsolved, anyone who tells you they know anything much about Jack the Ripper is telling a fib, however, after more than 20-years of research on Thompson, I can truthfully say I know him better than anyone alive. I know that, in 1888, this man, with an unsound mind, stalked the streets of Spitalfields. He carried his razor sharp knife seeking a prostitute who had humiliated him while his thoughts were on cutting women’s stomachs open. This sums up who Francis Thompson was but might you know him better by his trade name. Jack the Ripper